High street pharmacy chain Boots has released an apology after it was publicly criticised by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) for including a “sexist surcharge” on emergency hormonal contraception (EHC).
Boots also said it was committed to looking at sourcing less expensive EHC medicines, such as generics, to enable it to continue to make the privately funded EHC service even more accessible in the future.
“The provision of EHC requires a regulated mandatory consultation to protect women’s health and is a professional healthcare service provided by highly trained pharmacists. As a leading pharmacy, we will not compromise or undervalue this professional service,” its statement said.
The major multiple was further criticised for its response to the BPAS when it said it did not want to “incentivise inappropriate use” of emergency contraception or “provoke complaints” from people opposed to the use of the product. A petition run by a global consumer group called SumOfUs, demanding that Boots charge a more reasonable rate for emergency contraception and calling for an apology for its “sexist comments”, was signed by over 10,000 people in less than three hours.
Boots “truly sorry”
In its statement, Boots says it was “truly sorry” that its poor choice of words had caused offence and misunderstanding.
“We firmly believe in the right of all women to access the EHC service with ease and convenience, and have long been at the forefront of increasing accessibility of contraception for women,” it added.
Supermarket Tesco and major multiple Superdrug have both reduced their charges for the morning-after pill to around £13.50. But Boots has refused to lower its price of £28.25 for the Levonelle emergency contraceptive and £26.75 for its own brand version.
Women can obtain the EHC for free in pharmacies in Scotland and Wales. In England, some pharmacies offer the EHC with no charge under a patient group direction, but provision of the service is patchy.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) England Board chair, Sandra Gidley, said it supported any initiatives that improved access to emergency contraception and sexual health advice for women.
“Cost is a barrier to access to medicines and for that reason, we would like to see all community pharmacies in England able to supply emergency contraception free through the NHS,” she said.
“NHS emergency contraception services have been available free through pharmacies in Scotland and Wales for some time, and we would like to see that replicated across the whole of the country so women get better access, regardless of their ability to pay.”